The year 2019 has been one of transition in Madagascar. The country capped a peaceful, democratic, and internationally acclaimed presidential election, with the swearing in of President-elect Andry Rajoelina on 19 January 2019. With that came the formation of a new Malagasy Government, and senses of new starts, under the upcoming “Plan pour l’Émergence de Madagascar” based on the 13 commitments made by the then-presidential candidate Andry Rajoelina under its election manifesto promising to set Madagascar on a new course, scale up growth and substantially reduce poverty.
But the prospect of a reinvigorated and nationally owned process of development cannot eclipse the vast challenges that lie ahead and that broad segments of the population continues to experience in their day to day lives. With more than seventy per cent of the population living in extreme poverty, Madagascar’s development challenges remain vast. Madagascar’s education, health, and nutrition outcomes remain some of the lowest in the world.
These pervasive challenges continue to drive a significant number of Malagasy nationals to seek opportunities abroad. While labour migration can be a positive agent for development when well-managed, it also presents challenges to ensuring that the rights of Malagasy migrant workers are protected and that labour migration management is concerted and responds to national development priorities.
Because of inadequate labour migration management, Madagascar still factors as an important source country for trafficking in persons (TiP). Within Madagascar,
TiP takes the form of domestic servitude, prostitution, forced begging, and forced labour, both in rural and urban areas. Internationally, Malagasy women and men have been reported to be trafficked for sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, as well as exploitation in textile factories and in the fishing industry.
With eighty per cent of the population relying on agriculture as primary source of income, one of the main challenges lies in the high vulnerability to the devastating effects of environmental disasters and climate change. Madagascar remains one of the most economically impacted countries in the world from natural disasters and one of the most likely to be negatively affected by climate change.
Cyclical droughts in the “Grand Sud” continue to drive migration from the area, substantially transforming patterns of internal migration within the country, and its effects both in areas of origin and destination of migrants – some of which are increasingly negative, such as the impacts that unmanaged migration has on the environment and biodiversity conservation due to unsustainable agricultural practices and economic activities led by migrants for lack of alternatives. More needs to be done to reduce the incidences and negative humanitarian and development impacts of population displacement and to integrate dimensions of internal migration into broader national development planning.
The health of migrants and other mobile populations should be closely monitored and promoted under public health strategies. The potential health hazards associated to migration are evident in the South Western Indian Ocean region.
The Island States are currently experiencing an increase in migration trends which offers many benefits to businesses but also presents a unique set of challenges to sending and receiving states, as well as to migrants. Within the country, the severe plague outbreak experienced in the country from August to November 2017, with over 2,400 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of plague, and 209 deaths reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) demonstrated the close linkages between public health and human mobility, and the need of deliberate early action and preparedness intervention.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 people move from rural areas to the capital, Antananarivo, every year. Unplanned urbanization impacts local development capacities, and it is estimated that between 60 to 70 per cent of all settlements in the capital comprise of informal constructions in slum-like conditions. Increased attention should be given to developing the capacities of formal economic integration and social inclusion of the arriving migrants, as well as to the development of standardized and practical tools to streamline migration into sustainable urban development planning.
Madagascar is home to 95% of the population and 98% of the landmass of the whole Western Indian Ocean region (Madagascar, Mauritius and Rodrigues, Comoros, Seychelles, Reunion and Mayotte islands). Close to 70% of the global commercial sea-bound trade heading from Africa to Asia passes within 100 miles of Madagascar’s Southern coast. With more than 5,000 km of coastline and owing to its strategic location across the Mozambique Channel, the porosity of borders and weak controls at formal entry points to the territory (seaports and coastal airports in particular) has been conducive to forms of transnational and national criminal and illegal activities that can ripple inland and throughout the region.
Effective and efficient border management remains essential to ensure border security, reinforce the fight against transnational organized crime, and enhance protection of vulnerable migrants, and a challenge in Madagascar.
Lastly, the Malagasy Diaspora, in its diversity, – in particular the diaspora residing in some countries of destination such as France where it is predominantly concentrated – presents significant but still largely untapped potentials for engagement and contribution in meeting the challenges of sustainable national development, given its above-average levels of education, professional successes, dynamism, and creativity.
Given its socio-economic realities, relative isolation in the Indian Ocean, diverse geography, fragile natural ecosystems, and its largely porous coastline, Madagascar presents complex migration challenges and opportunities today and for the future.
- International Organization for Migration
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